Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut April 04, 2018 - 9:45 am

Inuit language service at the Frobisher Inn: do they comply?

Iqaluit hotel owner and landlord replies to complaint

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
When the owners of Iqaluit's Frobisher Inn, Nunastar Properties Inc., built the Storehouse Bar and Grill, they included an Inuktitut syllabics translation of its name in their signage. But an Iqaluit resident, Jordan Ipirq Bens, says that the hotel's Inuit language services are not adequate and recently wrote a letter of complaint. Nunastar's letter of reply is published below Bens' letter on this page.  (FILE PHOTO)
When the owners of Iqaluit's Frobisher Inn, Nunastar Properties Inc., built the Storehouse Bar and Grill, they included an Inuktitut syllabics translation of its name in their signage. But an Iqaluit resident, Jordan Ipirq Bens, says that the hotel's Inuit language services are not adequate and recently wrote a letter of complaint. Nunastar's letter of reply is published below Bens' letter on this page. (FILE PHOTO)

The following is a letter of complaint to Nunastar Properties Inc., owner of the Frobisher Inn and many rental properties in Iqaluit, that Iqaluit resident Jordan Ipirq Bens shared with Nunatsiaq News and various government officials late last month.

It’s followed by a letter of reply from Nunastar President Ed Romanowski that was copied to us shortly afterward.

I am writing this complaint letter because in 2017 I had to interpret for unilingual Inuit who were in need of assistance in making collect calls from your establishment, the Frobisher Inn.

I have discussed this issue with other people and they are angered that they are not able to receive any services in Inuktitut, even when your automated answering service has the option to utilize services in Inuktitut.

Furthermore, there is a similar problem with the Nunastar office, in which there is no option to access services in Inuktitut. I really feel like this is a significant disservice to Inuit, and as such, this is a major problem that needs to be addressed as soon as humanly possible in my view.

I understand that between the Frobisher Inn and Nunastar Properties, millions of dollars in revenue is earned annually.

Inuit who stay at your hotel and the Inuit tenants who rent apartments with Nunastar are the major contributors to your profit margins. However, you do not ensure that our language rights as Inuit are respected, despite there being laws that require you to provide services in Inuktitut.

I wanted to find out for myself the extent to which Inuit are subjected to the challenges of your “all English (or French)” operation, so I took the time to contact Nunastar and requested to speak with somebody in Inuktitut using Inuktitut.

Of course, I was told to call back and discuss the matter in English or French.

Inuit have the right to access services in Inuktitut. As a corporate community member, you have an obligation to protect and promote our language and culture.

It is my view that it would only give your corporation some credibility. It would undoubtedly be a bold statement to your fellow corporate colleagues and would seek to improve your operations for the user immensely.

Again, a feasible response to this issue is to hire people who can provide services in Inuktitut at both the Frobisher Inn front desk, and the Nunastar Properties main office. As it stands now, you are discriminating against Inuit by not offering services in Inuktut.

I am led to believe that previous attempts at complaining about the lack of Inuktitut services have fallen on deaf ears.

Accordingly, this letter is being copied to the minister responsible for medical travel (Health), the minister responsible for income support (Family Services,) the Office of the Language Commissioner of Nunavut, Nunatsiaq News, CBC News North and the MLA responsible for my constituency.

I strongly feel that the Frobisher Inn and Nunastar Properties owe the Inuit who have been forced to speak and seek interpretation in English an apology, or at the very least, an admission of wrongdoing and a plan on how you will address the issues noted above.

I look forward to your response.

Jordan Ipirq Bens
Iqaluit

* * *

Here is a reply from Ed Romanowski, the president and chief operating officer of Nunastar Properties Inc.

Mr. Jordan Ipirq Bens,

Thank you for taking the time to provide your comments and observations regarding the use of Inuit languages at The Frobisher Inn and at Astro Hill (Nunastar).

I can assure you that we fully understand and support that the Inuit of Nunavut have an inherent right to the use of the Inuit languages, and that positive action is necessary to protect and promote Inuit languages in Nunavut.

Our organization has a proud history of serving Nunavut and the Iqaluit community for nearly 50 years. We are also proud to share that we started the process of improving our Inuit language services to our guests and patrons several years before the legislation.

Long before the application of the Inuit Language Protection Act to the private sector, we incorporated the language into signage, printed materials, and more. We also maintain a large complement of our staff who are Inuit—16 at this time.

As such, we received special recognition in the legislative assembly for these early efforts. We take pride in being a community leader in everything we do.

We have also been recognized by many agencies and organizations for our efforts.

Last month, we were recognized for our support of Inuktitut Language Month for the Nunavut authors’ event as well as our work throughout year after year in supporting Nunavut’s children, a large number of community causes and organizations, social services, education and more. And we continue to do more.

On July 9, 2017, Section 3 of the Inuit Language Protection Act became applicable to private sector organizations in Nunavut.

In September of 2017, the new Languages Commissioner of Nunavut contacted the private sector organizations and provided some guidance as to how organizations are expected to start planning the implementation of their linguistic obligations.

We are committed to action and to compliance with the Act. Like most organizations, it will take some time to implement all the measures to be in full compliance with the act. We are demonstrating our commitment to our linguistic obligations through actions that we have taken and have in progress.

I want to share with you some of the actions to date as we move towards better serving our guests and patrons in Inuktitut.

• We appointed a group of our most senior managers to conduct an internal review of our operations to identify and to make all changes that may be required to ensure that we meet or exceed our obligations under the Act.

• We were amongst the very first private sector organizations to submit an Inuit Languages Plan for both the Frobisher Inn and Astro Hill (Nunastar) to the Offices of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut. The plans have been in their hands since January.

Preparing and submitting a plan is not mandatory, but we did take the initiative to demonstrate our commitment to make changes and improvements in providing services to our valued guests, tenants and patrons. In preparing the plans, we utilized the template and guidelines available from the Office of the Language Commissioner.

• We have consulted with the Office of the Language Commissioner several times on translations and making changes in our operations to improve our Inuit languages services.

We are making good progress in the implementation of our plans including:

• Our signage is being translated throughout our properties and in our guest rooms, emergency exit instructions and parking signage. Some signs have already been installed.

• The translation of posters and commercial advertising including the translation of digital and print advertisements in the Nunatsiaq News for Astro Hill.

• We do have Inuit language speakers in the operation and as we continue to work with organizations such as Arctic College, we’ll continue to hire more trained and qualified hospitality and maintenance personnel who speak Inuktitut. Thankfully, the number of people available and interested in the hospitality and real estate services industry in Nunavut is growing.

• We have translated much of our service material such as menus and most of our restaurant and food services signage.

• In April 2018, we are launching a dedicated “Speaking the Inuktitut Language” page on our new Frobisher Inn website which covers several must-know Inuktitut words.

• We have changed and translated our signature blocks on our emails.

• We are translating notices, instructions and agreements.

• We have arranged for languages training for all of our staff so that basic greetings and salutations can be provided in Inuktitut to our guests, patrons and the larger community.

• We are looking forward to receiving feedback from the language commissioner on our plans while, in the meantime, we are proceeding as we have over the years to implement actions to improve our Inuit language services for our guests and patrons.

We can always improve and we’ll make adjustments to do things better along the way. If we’ve offended anyone, we sincerely apologize.

While we take issue with many of the specific assertions you have made, the point of this response is not to debate them. It’s important for us to continue to make changes and progress in the implementation of Inuit languages.

As I am sure you will agree, most organizations in Nunavut—territorial, federal, municipal and private sector—have more work to do to protect and promote the Inuit languages. We are fully committed to doing our part.

Should you have any questions regarding the implementation of our plans, I would be happy to speak with or get together with you.

Ed Romanowski
President and Chief Operating Officer
Nunastar Properties Inc.



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(21) Comments:

#1. Posted by Inuk on April 04, 2018

There is one time I pass through Iqaluit and had to stay overnight in Iqaluit due to weather. I call Frobisher Inn to see either I could stay there, immediate response was they are all booked no room available. However a female person was behind me waiting to call hotel to stay overnight also she say let me try the same hotel and sure enough there was room for her. I guess it was my language probably my origin didn’t get me a room.

#2. Posted by Great idea on April 04, 2018

Mr. Romanowski, You seem proud of all that’s being done and while I commend you, I couldn’t get past the 3rd paragraph where you advise you’re proud to have served this community for 50 years.  It took 50 years to implement all of this? Shameful to be honest. Hire a homeless translator or 2 to answer the phone, roam the front lobby and Nunastar’s office (the whole premises) to be there ready, willing and able to translate at any time. Provide them with an apartment and you should be good to go. Win/win situation for all. You’ll be helping the homeless and they’ll be helping you and your clients.smile

#3. Posted by David on April 04, 2018

I think it is time for a 100% Inuit-owned hotel for Iqaluit. I hear this is coming, so perhaps things are changing for the better.

#4. Posted by WONDERING on April 04, 2018

Mr Bens letter is in English??should have addressed it in the language you are promoting.. Inuktitut..let them translate if they cant immediately understand it..

#5. Posted by earth3rd on April 04, 2018

Which dialect will be the official dialect? With 26 dialects I would imagine it would be difficult to accommodate everyone equally.

#6. Posted by Inummarik on April 04, 2018

If an Inuk goes down south and seek for a job, the inuk has to know English or they won’t get the job. It should be the same with all the buildings in Nunavut, Every work place in Nunavut SHOULD have someone who speaks Inuktitut because they’re in inuit lant, it’s only fair.

#7. Posted by Wishful Thinking on April 04, 2018

Wouldn’t it be nice if they hired a homeless person, but do they speak, read, and write fluent? would they come to work everyday?  I am not saying they wouldn’t, but the barriers to employment often are not from a business trying to accommodate. And lets be fair. This is private business. They can only accommodate so much before its burden.

These are private businesses and if they want to operate in one language vs another. Let them. If the public chooses to not use there services or buy there goods that will be the sign of the support. Consumers if they want this service should boycott those who do not offer it.

Unfortunately Inuit Ownership and NNI policy has so many work arounds that “paper companies” are created to exploit Iniuit ownership in bids for GN contracts or construction projects. Maybe we should be looking to adjust NNI to give bid adjustments based on operating language, number of inuit employed, number of inuit upper management, number of training positions etc.

#8. Posted by secret on April 04, 2018

Good on both parties.Jordan wrote this letter very well, and nice to see Frobisher defend itself with concrete examples.  Good to see this play-out. Kudos for both parties

#9. Posted by realist on April 04, 2018

Show me an Inuk or Qallunaaq Inuktitut speaker in Iqaluit with administrative skills, a positive attitude towards work and a habit of showing up on time and I’ll show you someone who can and will get a job with City, GN, Feds, QIA, NTI or an NGO paying two to three more than what the Frob can pay.

Can Nunastar try harder?  Of course they can and should but as an employer in Iqaluit, I can tell you it is an up-hill battle to find skilled and loyal staff without a payroll budget that includes 6 figures for your front line staff.

#10. Posted by Okuk, Cambridge Bay. on April 04, 2018

Quit blaming Nunastar, it is our responsibility to make sure our children
can speak Inuktitut
In Western Nunavut Inuktitut is so incompetent and pathetically taught
that many children have given up on it.
It is our own fault we hire useless language teachers, but it goes on
year after year.

#11. Posted by Inukti on April 04, 2018

#6,
There should be a proper Inuktitut teacher in all Nunavut towns, giving
free lessons to all who will learn.

#12. Posted by nunaspeak on April 04, 2018

#11, I’d be willing to pay. But it just doesn’t exist. The classes at arctic college are laughable, and the Pirurvik classes used to be good, but they got greedy and tried to squeeze each level into a very short timeframe. And they only go so far, and that’s where it ends. There is no complete resource to get a regular, stupid but willing student (like myself) speaking Inuktitut. Not giving up though!

#13. Posted by Also speak, Kitikmeot on April 04, 2018

# 12,
What we tried back in the day was for 10 of us wanna be Inuktitut
speakers to pay our instructor $5 each per lesson.
Then some kindly gullible souls decided to pay fees in advance, and
after receiving $500 bucks, the instructor quit cos he got kids!!
No one got their money back.
Another person offered to send someone to visit Israel and the holy
Christian buildings on a guided tour, if they taught them Inuktitut.
A letter of escrow was made up referring to both parties.
After 1 year the letter expired,no one learned Inuktitut, and no one
went to Israel.
#10, 11, very good points.

#14. Posted by actually truth on April 04, 2018

“Thank you for taking the time to provide your comments and observations regarding the use of Inuit languages at The Frobisher Inn and at Astro Hill (Nunastar).”

- “taking the time” is actually “taking a stand”

- “comments and observations” is actually “facts and proof”

- “regarding the use of Inuit languages” is actually “regarding the unavailable 24/7 use of Inuit languages”

...the rest of the letter is lost in translation.

#15. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on April 05, 2018

Poster # 3 there is nothing stopping you from building or buying a hotel and a apartment block in Iqaluit and having all of your staff offer all the services in Inuktitut.There is Inuit organizations that would like to look at your business plans and blue prints for your new endeavor. I am sure that Iqaluit would welcome such business.. but my question would be how many dialects would you offer? Would you also be hiring the homeless people and clear that issue from the streets of Iqaluit… Would you also implement criminal records checks because women as well as elder clients need to feel safe..Would it be alcohol and smoke free as many clients would welcome that type of service. The services offered could be never ending and with all that people will still complain.

#16. Posted by in time on April 05, 2018

#15 Thankyou for the tips toward a successful endeavor.  There are many more policies and procedures to go through for what sounds to be an insurmountable venture to some.  In time, the good changes will arrive as #3 has envisioned.

#17. Posted by Inuk speaker/student on April 05, 2018

Earth3rd it wouldn’t be hard to accommodate everyone. I am a kivalliq student who have been in college for the last 4 years, which were based in Rankin and here in iqaluit. In order to know the dilectal differences was hard but I was given no choice but to learn them in order to learn what my passion is about. I am an I terpreter translator student who have learnt the differences in dialect. All they need is someone who is well educated or who has traveld and learnt other dialects. You are saying that what dialect they would go with… the hotel is based in iqaluit which is the capital of Nunavut.. it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who knows more of the baffin region dialects. As a kivalliqmiut I would be comfortable going into a baffin based office to do translations, interpretations. It’s only the matter of getting well educated people into a place where it’s more emerged with dialects like the hospitals, hotels and other public places. Think outside the box!

#18. Posted by Process it Clearly on April 05, 2018

I think #8 put it in good order.  The letter makes a good point.  The response is good and none evasive.  This is how we should do dialogues.  Pointed by not hot headed. 

Also an Inuk would not automatically give better service.  I know a lot of Inuit who are give scuffy service or they do not like in the servant position.  Good service ‘helps’ in any language.

#19. Posted by Sad, period. on April 05, 2018

I feel disgustingly pathetic in CB, no effort in practicing the language here.  Disregard the dialect differences, lexically there is unity all across.  We need to strengthen language.  I’m tired of interpreting and translating, soon I’ll stop,  There is responsibility by non-GN businesses to ensure that they make every effort to work in the “language of service—which is Inuktut.”

#20. Posted by ethnic identity on April 06, 2018

You won’t get service in Inuktitut until inuktitut speakers want to work in the jobs where people wish they spoke inuktitut.  It’s the only way.  People don’t learn languages from instructors, they learn it at home.  You can’t have a functional society built around an ethnic identity if that ethnic group doesn’t want run and work in businesses.

#21. Posted by Call the MP on April 06, 2018

Hey Jordan, I think you should contact Member of Parliament, Hunter Tootoo. I know he would be willing to really get close and tackle this issue that is so near and dear to you and vital to the community. I believe Hunter has expressed interest in getting the federal government to support Inuktitut language and could be your best hope to draw more attention. I’m sure Hunter would be willing to meet with you, your wife and your family to discuss this issue in detail so that he can lobby the federal government to provide additional funding support and accelerate the effort. The GN is falling behind so maybe Hunter can get the liberals to help and he can get the issue the attention it requires.

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